1. What is the role of women in The Iliad? Does the poem contain any strong female characters, or do the acts and deeds of males dominate the work?
The Iliad certainly contains strong female characters. Athena and Hera rank among the most powerful forces in the book. Even the other male gods cannot stand up to them, and Ares, supposedly the god of war, must cede to Athena’s superior might on two occasions. Moreover, Athena and Hera are more than just assertive and forceful. They are cunning, quick-witted, and sharp-tongued. By using her womanly assets and a little trickery, Hera incapacitates even Zeus, the king of gods and men.
In the mortal sphere, however, The Iliad has little to offer in the way of strong female figures. Very few women enter the story at all, and the women who do appear usually fall into one of two categories: property, such as Chryseis and Briseis, or interlocutors for male characters, such as Helen and Andromache. Homer uses Helen to reveal the cowardly underside of Paris’s character and to spotlight the Achaean commanders when she describes them to Priam on the Trojan ramparts. Andromache helps to make Hector a sympathetic character and provides the stimulus for his speech in Book 6 about the fate of Troy. Thus, the significance of both women lies not in themselves but in the ways they illuminate the men around them. The two may seem to be important characters because of the high status they enjoy relative to other women, but compared to The Iliad’s warriors they are little more than props.
2. What role does fate play in the emotional and psychological effect of The Iliad? Why does Homer make his characters aware of their impending dooms?
Homer’s original audience would already have been intimately familiar with the story The Iliad tells. Making his characters cognizant of their fates merely puts them on par with the epic’s audience. In deciding to make his characters knowledgeable about their own futures, he loses... [continues]
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